On February 4, 2012, supervising librarian Elizabeth Bird hosted a meeting of the minds, bringing a school librarian, public librarian, bookseller, parental blogger, and an author/illustrator together in the Margaret Berger Forum of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. The Children's Literary Salon is a monthly meeting in The New York Public Library for anyone interested in children's literature. It usually occurs on the first Saturday of the month from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Check here for information about upcoming salons, and please feel free to join us. There is great conversation amongst the panelists, and audience members have a chance to ask questions.
We were privileged to have a panoply of representatives from bookworm professions come together in a conversation about books. They are working together across different professions to help kids to enhance their learning, literacy, and appreciation of the world. The panel was introduced by Bird.
Public Librarian: Marilyn Ackerman is a public librarian working for the Brooklyn Public Library. I love public libraries, and I have worked in and visited countless branches in different cities. The freedom of access to information is terrific. Even those who can't afford to buy books or computers can access the information for free with a local library card. Not only can you access great books, DVDs, CDs, and more — public libraries also have great programs for kids, teens, and adults.
School Librarian: Barbara Auerbach is a school librarian. As a librarian for The New York Public Library, one of my favorite things to do is work with school librarians to set up class trips, visits to the schools, and promote libraries and reading.
Parental Blogger: Erica Kylander-Clark is a parental blogger. Parents are invaluable in developing a love of reading in their children. It takes devoted parents to visit the library and encourage reading in their children.
Bookstore Manager: Rebecca Fitting (Greenlight Bookstore) runs an independent bookstore.
Author/Illustrator: Melanie Hope Greenberg is an author and illustrator. We would not have anything to read without authors. For that, librarians are greatly indebted to them.
Author/Illustrator Presentation: Greenberg started the program with a short 10 to 15 minute presentation about the work of authors. She talked about the need for self-marketing and what is expected of authors and illustrators. She provided a list of what it takes to sell books. She has been in the industry for 25 years and has been involved in the production of 16 books. She discussed author/illustrator visits to schools as a way to spread the love of literature to kids, but as a way to make money too. She talked about etiquette — for example, she stated that thank yous for opportunities are very important, and replying to comments on social networking sites (such as Facebook) are also important, since the communication needs to be going in multiple directions.
Then Bird invited the panel to come to the front of the room. She asked the members how they find the best books for kids and where.
Where to Find Kid Book Gems: The school librarian stated that she finds them anywhere books are sold, including bookstores and museum shops. She stated that her customers are teachers and students: she finds the books teachers need and the books students want. In addition, book reviews, School Library Journal magazine, and blogs are good sources for books. The public librarian stated that e-mails from other librarians, parents, and kids; publisher previews; galleys; newsletters; and conferences help her find books. She likes to go to conferences hosted by Book Expo America, the American Library Association, School Library Journal's Day of Dialog, and the New York Library Association. The bookseller stated that sales representatives help put her in touch with new books. The parental blogger reads blogs, lists, and goes to libraries, and likes to look at library displays to find out what librarians find interesting. She reads parental blogs. She likes to go to book fairs for parents, which are sometimes held at museums, in conjunction with other children's events. There was some consensus that the book professionals are more likely to go to conferences in New York City due to money and time constraints.
Bird stated that all of the members of the panel were the gatekeepers to books. She was interested in hearing a discussion between the public and the school librarian about the relationship between public and school libraries, and how they have changed. She is under the impression that historically, the two professions did not intersect, but due to budget constraints, the two are working together more these days.
Partnerships Between Schools and Public Libraries: The school librarian mentioned that she had worked with a public librarian from a panel held in the 1990s under Connecting Libraries and Schools Programs (CLASP). This helped get authors and programs in schools, and the kids were so happy to meet famous authors. The author/illustrator added that she has provided presentations at schools that were paid for by libraries. The public librarian mentioned that some public libraries, including NYPL, offer an educator card, which provides extended borrowing periods in order to encourage teachers to use the public libraries more. She also mentioned that summer reading lists come out each year (www.summerreading.org) for kids, teens, and adults. The public librarian mentioned that there is room for growth in the partnerships between schools and public libraries. She sometimes wonders why one particular Junie B. Jones book is needed when she feels that any one title from the series might do. Also, sometimes parents wait until the last minute for school assignments, and the books needed are already checked out. Sometimes an entire class is assigned the same topic, which makes access to the books difficult.
Schools and public libraries working together benefit children's literacy and enjoyment. Teachers can contact neighborhood libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan, or Staten Island if they would like to arrange a visit to the Library to get library cards, go on Library tours, do research for classes, or participate in story times. Teachers can also request visits from NYPL representatives. NYPL staff can talk about Library services and summer reading programs, and sign students up for library cards. Kids are in school during the day, and then they go to their public libraries for after-school programs, such as gaming. They also populate the Library during the summers and school holidays, so we need to work together to keep them reading the books they love!
Bird then posed a question to the bookseller. She asked which events the bookstore participates in, and how does she decides which events to attend.
Independent Bookstore Events: Fitting stated that she runs an independent bookstore, and it is still in its infancy (it's only two and a half years old). She has participated in a conference for two years now. She has limited resources, and she needs to find the right fit for the independent bookstore. She has been involved with events with schools and libraries. She heard a lecture at a conference regarding how to partner with public libraries effectively. The school librarian pointed out that Greenlight Bookstore has teacher nights with refreshments. She states that the teachers have tremendous power in kids' lives regarding what they read. She stated that if a teacher reads a book during class or recommendeds a book, the kids really wanted to read it. The bookseller stated that she loves it when sales representatives talk to booksellers. It builds an "intangible buzz" or synergy that makes us all work together better to provide the best product for kids and engage them with literacy.
Bird asked the parental blogger how often she had been approached by authors and/or illustrators.
Blogger's Contact with Authors and Illustrators: The parental blogger responded that authors or illustrators had only contacted her twice. She likes to write about all books — not just the ones promoted by publishers, but she thinks more contact would be a helpful way for her to become aware of upcoming books to be published, since she doesn't know if parents have a good awareness of what books are on the horizon next.
Bird then opened up the floor for questions from audience members.
The first audience member talked about authors starting blogs about nonfiction children's books, which are talked about less than fiction children's books.
Bird asked the panel how they let people know about good nonfiction children's books.
Good Children's Nonfiction Books: One of the members of the panel said that that's what we're here to figure out. The bookseller stated that there is not as much information available about children's nonfiction books. She stated that this is a small section of her bookstore and it is one of the hardest sections to develop. There are many books on dinosaurs and history, but it is difficult to determine which aspects of history will be of interest to customers. She often eavesdrops on parents to find out what books they would like to buy for their kids. The school librarian stated that the Board of Education is presently making a big push now for children's nonfiction books. However, she stated that nonfiction in schools is sometimes narrowly defined. For example, nonfiction titles must sometimes include a table of contents, index, be large and oversized, and have many pictures. And any book with animal characters, even with true content, would sometimes not be classified as children's nonfiction.
It was another great Children's Literary Salon. It was nice to see how the professions intersect in the service of connecting kids with books in order to provide enjoyment, information, and enrich lives. It was scintillating conversation, and we definitely hope that you will join us next time.
Upcoming Children's Literary Salon programs:
*Descriptions provided by Elizabeth Bird, Youth Materials Collection Specialist
March 24, 2012 — What is the current state of picture book apps for kids today? How are they made? How do you balance technical concerns with kid-appeal and educational benefits? Author/illustrator Roxie Monro and Matt Bassett of One Hundred Robots tackle these and other issues in the brave new world of apps.
Location: Stephen A. Schwarzman building (the "library with the lions" at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street)
Margaret Berger Forum, Room 227
Time: 2 to 3 p.m.
Click here to see NYPL's online calendar for the next Children's Literary Salon!
April 7, 2012 — Join book review editors Trev Jones (School Library Journal), Diane Roback (Publishers' Weekly), and Vicky Smith (Kirkus Reviews) for a conversation about the highs and lows of reviewing materials for youth in an era of digital changes.
May 5, 2012 — Hear a panel of international authors discuss the worldwide state of children's literature and publishing. Panelists will include Sharon Elswit, the anthologist of The Jewish Story Finder and the East Asian Story Finder; and Israeli Pnina Mode Kass, the author of Real Time, which was translated into German and French and won the National Jewish Book Award, the Sydney Taylor, and others.
June 2, 2012 — Formed in 1987 by a group of Brooklyn illustrators to share publishing information and industry experiences, the Children's Book Illustrators Group brings together artists with an interest in producing exceptional artwork and books for children. Join Donna Miskend, president and exhibition curator; Vicky Rubin, webmaster and listserve manager; Maria Madonna Davidoff, postcard designer; and others in a discussion of the group's accomplishments and future goals.